Today’s revelations in The Australian that Saddam Hussein wants to be friends with George Bush will come as no surprise to long-time Iraq watchers. I was in Baghdad in 1974 as part of an international press contingent invited to the opening of the Kurdish National “Parliament” in Kirkuk. My escort officer, a young US-educated Iraqi, was gushing in his praise for the “great American allies,” who of course were pouring military aid into the country to help prop up the pre-Saddam government.

These American friends later supplied the gas, used by Saddam after he had grabbed power, to quell Kurdish dissent – that was a Donald Rumsfeld inspired gesture. The Iraqis hosted a lavish banquet for us in Irbil and who should swagger in, surrounded by a bevy of heavily armed goons, but the soon-to-be dictator himself.

His arrogance was palpable and so was the fear which descended on the room. The young escort officer’s eyes glazed over – “that man”, he whispered to me, ”will soon be the saviour of my country.” Well that man seized the reins and with the help of the great friend and reduced the country to a madness which almost matched Hitler’s in pre-war Germany.

The friendship with the US blossomed until something went horribly wrong – and the real story is yet to emerge. All the current hyperbole about freeing Iraq from the tyrant is hollow indeed – the atrocities were well known and blind eyes were turned. Saddam will one day be permitted to write his memoirs which will be a riveting reading. In the meantime, we have to be content with the Bush/Blair/Howard spin – and their illegal invasion of a sovereign state which has achieved nothing.